The need for separate ringflash units is not necessarily the case. In a flash, Bowens have thrown a new contender into the ring. No pun intended.
Bowens Ringlite converter Specification
- Diameter - 21.6cm/8.5in
- Centre Aperture - 9.5cm/3.75in
- Angle - 55°
- Height - 35cm / 13.75in
- Width - 11.5cm / 8.75in
- Depth - 11.5cm / 4.5in (inc S-Type adaptor, not including camera bracket)
- Weight - 1.45kg (including camera bracket)
Bowens Ringlite converter Features
Whilst most ring light flash heads are usually units that take power from the camera or separate battery packs, the Bowens Ringlite is similar to the adapter ringflash units that transform a regular bounce flash head using mirrors.
The distinct advantage that the Bowens unit has over the other adapters is that it fits onto a Bowens S-Mount studio head. This gives the flash unit and you, the versatility of a studio light but with the added bonus of those cool round catch lights that fashion pictures use these days.
Fitting the plates for the camera to sit on is easy enough. The screws to hold the plate in place have chunky plastic grips for ease of use and the plate can be adjusted in height, with just over 2in to play with, for different cameras and lenses. Part of the mount that the screws go into have slightly raised lips to ensure guidance when fitting.
The tripod bush for the camera is also adjustable to a distance of 4.5in giving enough room for any camera and portrait lens to be fitted in easily enough.
The portrait bracket is an extension to the landscape bracket. It screws into the existing tripod bush with the small, white guidance studs sat either side of the plate.
Looking at the front, the white light is a diffused doughnut of perspex plastic that can be removed if necessary and coloured gels or filters can be inserted.
Bowens Ringlite converter Build quality
At roughly half the price of other ring flash units, you may expect the unit to be badly made or using cheap materials. With the absence of electronics, but Bowens have ensured that the materials they do use are good quality.
The screws are big and strong with fat grips for easy handling. Other examples of good quality materials include the aligning lips being very precise ensuring flush fitting and the perspex on the front being quite thick.
Bowens Ringlite converter Performance
Using the attachment is easy enough. The modelling bulb has to be removed, which is an unfortunate problem as it means continuous lighting, which is a benefit of studio lighting, is not available. This means that positioning to remove shadows on a still life, for instance, is a trial and error mission.
One interesting effect that only using a ring flash can achieve is a thin grey shadow around the subject. Because the light is even all over the frame, the shadow is consistent all around the subject. Despite sounding like a negative element to using a ring flash, it gives the subject a frame, resembling a negative halo effect. I have demonstrated the effect on a still life of a Chess board, but the effect can be done with portraits too. to get this effect when taking photos of people will depend on the distance of the subject from the background. The closer the subject, the sharper the shadow will be.
The portrait images I took were close ups to illustrate the catch lights that can be obtained with a ring flash. The problems gained from this is that the areas closest to the light such as the cheek and tip of the nose are slightly burnt out.
The grey shadow gives a nice outline shadow to the subject. This can be applied to all subjects, not just still life. The still life does have an air of CGI about it that I like.
Using a standard softbox means that the camera cannot be on the same angle as the light causing shadows that aren't as attractive.
The Ringlite works well with portraits as the face will be evenly exposed with lovely catchlights and the light decaying nicely towards the edge of the frame.
Using the softbox and although the light is softer, the problem of being off centre again gives big shadows down the side of the models face.
Bowens Ringlite converter Verdict
If I wanted to move the camera around, I had to lift up the whole light and stand. This isn't too much of a problem, but increases the chances of dropping it.
The camera is difficult to look through if the light is set high up, but with the advent of Live view on newer DSLRs, this will become less of a problem.
The light is well balanced with the only problem being that there are burnt out areas on the cheek, nose and lips. Adjusting the exposure will solve the problem, but can affect the overall image.
Finally, at £319 this is a piece of kit that is half the price of a normal Ringflash and as an attachment to a studio light basically gives you extra creative freedom.
Bowens Ringlite converter Plus points
Half the price of a Ringflash unit
Has the flexibility of studio flash
Easy to assemble
Bowens Ringlite converter Minus points
No modelling light
Can be difficult to see through the viewfinder
Screws can be difficult to access
Because of the build, ease of useand cost benefits, the Bowens Ringlite converter has been awarded our coveted Highly Recommended award.
The Bowens Ringlite converter costs around £319 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.